The Hohenzollern Castle is one of the biggest and most fascinating example of Gothic Revival or Neo-Gothic style which was in vogue during the 19th century. It is a must see when touring the South of Germany.
The History of the Hohenzollern Castle
The Hohenzollern Castle proudly stands on the same grounds as 2 former castles, homes of the Hohenzollern family, which have long been destroyed. Its ideal location on top of a gentle hill, overlooking the valley and the foothills of the Swabian Alps, provides incredible picturesque views. It also makes it very easy to understand why, King Frederick William IV, dreamed of re-building the ancestral Hozenzollern House.
In 1850, the King finally saw the beginning of the works of what was to become one of the most imposing castle of Germany. Unfortunately, he never saw the built castle as he died before the project was completed in 1867 (only 17 years to built this incredible place!! it just always impress me!).
The architect, appointed to design the castle, was Friedrich August Stüler, the architect who had designed, amongst other masterpiece, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie (both part of the Museum Island, Berlin) and the main portal of the Berlin City Palace. Stüler, the ‘Royal architect’, was quite prolific in his time, although many of his creation were destroyed during WWII.
Obviously the Hohenzollern Castle is very different in style than Stüler other work….
The Architecture of the Hohenzollern Castle
What does Neo-Gothic stands for? As I told you previously, it refers to an architectural mouvement which sought to revive medieval Gothic architecture, in contrast to the neoclassical styles prevalent at the time. So basically, it looks like it was built during Medieval times but in fact it wasn’t.
Somehow, you could feel cheated by this Neo-Gothic mouvement of the 19th century, because you thing that you are visiting an incredibly preserved and authentic medieval castle and realize that it wasn’t build 5 or 6 centuries ago but ‘only’ 100 to 200 years ago. The good thing is that most castles from the Medieval period have long lost all their decorations, if not everything else, so Neo-Gothic castles at least give you a sense of what they might have truly looked like: Colorful, richly decorated, much more comfortable than what most people think, although still pretty cold during the winter!
However, the Hohenzollern Castle Halls and other rooms are so impressive, almost Versailles style, that there is most likely a slight difference here compare to a true Medieval castle! Nether-the-less, it is so beautiful that you can only enjoy it!
The Visit of the Hohenzollern Castle
The Entrance to the Castle is marked by the Eagle Gateway and the elliptic ramp which allows to easily climb up to the main courtyard.
The elliptic ramp is an ingenious and rare architecture feature. Check out the castle map to better understand.
When visiting the Hohenzollern castle, you’ll probably first stop to admire the view along the ramp and then climb inside the Gate tower (picture above) from which you will have an incredible view on the castle courtyard and roofs (picture below).
We couldn’t resist visiting straight away the Christ’s Chapel. The blue of the ceiling is mesmerizing and the gilded work so refined that you will want to stay there to admire. The inspiration was obviously the Sainte Chapel in Paris.
The picture above shows the royal balcony facing the altar.
Mary & Jesus painting by Feodor Bruni
But you do need to also see the Saint Michael Chapel which is the only part that remains from the previous medieval castle. Built in 1461, it hosts the relief of Saint Michael slaying a dragon (both Saint Gorge and Archangel Michael were dragons’ slayers!). As you can see, the decoration is a bit more subtle here, compare to the Christ’s Chapel.
Medieval representation of Saint Michael slaying a dragon (and being not too happy about it?!)
Our tour continued inside the Castle, where unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures.
The visit starts in the Ancestral Hall which walls are adorned with the impressive and intricate Hohenzollern family tree.
The Count’s Hall which was the banquet hall and ballroom, ressembles the nave of a church with its vaulted ceiling and marble floors. Raise your eyes and admire the chandeliers 😉
The rest of the visit will take you through various rooms including the library, the Royal Chambers and Blue Parlor which all have their specificities, from elaborated gilded ceilings to walls covered with carved wood, marquetry floors, many paintings in richly decorated frames and original furniture.
As you go back to the courtyard, do not miss the entrance of the cellar and casemates. A very very different sight aways you! quite unsettling in fact.
Once you exit the casemate, you will be able to walk back to the courtyard admiring the South side of the Castle, the immenses bronze statues of the German Emperors and of course, the incredible view of the valley!
Hope you liked it!!
The Technical bits:
The official website of the Hohenzollern castle contains all the usual & useful information: www.burg-hohenzollern.com as well as beautiful pictures of the Halls, the Gallery and the Chambers.
The official website also gives the program of the various animations that are organized at the castle: from concerts to plays and various events like Christmas markets. It is truly a lively place which draws thousands of visitors per year and yet isn’t crowded.
Hey!!! You can book private tours!! What a great idea… Let’s go!!
The Hohenzollern castle is still privately owned and you will only get to visit about a third or so of the place.
What are those? Giant felted slippers you will be walking with during your tour!! It is done to limit the damage to the floor but it does make you feel less Royal 😉
Check out the Lichtenstein Castle, if you haven’t done so yet but also the Eltz Castle and the Coshem Castle to learn more about Germany’s incredible cultural heritage.
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